East Asia

Chinese Business and Political Leaders mock the ‘dysfunctional’ U.S. political system

November 10, 2011

“Chinese political and business leaders are increasingly triumphant after two decades of rapid economic growth that lifted unprecedented millions of people out of poverty and turned the nation into an economic superpower, saying their success proves its political and economic system is superior to the Western model.

In extensive talks with a series of Chinese leaders, an oft-cited point of criticism is the gridlock and “dysfunction” they see in Washington. They say fawning by U.S. political leaders seeking re-election has created an “entitlement culture” where the public has grown dependent on government largesse. Now, with the United States facing monumental economic and debt problems, the political system has been unable to curb generous entitlement programs or counter the economic downturn.”

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Following the IAEA report, nuclear experts are divided on when Iran will be able to produce a nuclear weapon

November 10, 2011

“In the wake of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s damning report, most analysts agree that Iran has spent a decade ceaselessly striving to attain the capability of producing nuclear weapons. However, there is no consensus about how close Iran is to manufacturing its first nuclear bomb.

One of the foremost experts who could shed light on the matter is Dr. Olli Heinonen. The Finnish nuclear scientist spent 27 years at the IAEA and served as deputy director general of the agency before leaving for Harvard last year.

He was in charge of inspecting Iran’s nuclear facilities and met with the directors of Iran’s nuclear program. The latest report hardly surprised him.

“There is not much new information,” Heinonen wrote Haaretz in an email from Harvard, on Wednesday. By this he meant that the plethora of evidence in the report reached the IAEA years ago. What he does not say is that his boss at the IAEA, former director Mohamed ElBaradei, either did not publish the findings or softened the way in which they were presented. It may be that Dr. ElBaradei believed the evidence was not definitive, or that it was true and that he was protecting Iran so that Israel and the United States would not have an excuse to attack the Islamic Republic.

Either way, El Baradai’s successor, Yukiya Amano of Japan, decided to divulge what the IAEA has long known. Heinonen wrote that he thought it was “good to have a comprehensive update on the military dimension.”

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China and Russia appeal to Syria, telling the government to end the violence

November 10, 2011

“China and Russia are calling for an end to violence in Syria after an Arab League-brokered peace accord failed to stop troops from killing protesters. They still oppose sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad.

The countries’ position is motivated by a desire for stability in the region, said Dan Darling, an analyst at defense-research firm Forecast International in Newtown, Connecticut. While China is the second-largest consumer of crude oil after the U.S., Russia sold $6.8 billion of arms to Syria between 2003 and 2010.

China and Russia vetoed a United Nations resolution last month that sought to pressure Syria’s government to end violence against its citizens, while South Africa, India and Brazil were among the abstainers. Their resistance goes against U.S. and European Union calls for Assad to step down, while his country and its officials face Western travel bans and asset freezes.”

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South Korea to resume sending medical aid to North Korea

November 10, 2011

“South Korea will resume medical aid to North Korea through the United Nations’ health agency, an official said Tuesday, in a fresh sign of easing tensions on the peninsula.

Seoul has authorised the World Health Organisation (WHO) to release $6.94 million to equip hospitals in the North, said the official of the unification ministry, which handles cross-border ties.

South Korea in 2009 donated $13.12 million to the WHO for aid to its neighbour. But it blocked disbursement of $6.94 million out of the total after accusing the North of sinking a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives.

Relations plummeted further when the North in November last year shelled a South Korean border island and killed four people.

But in recent months Seoul has made some concessions such as permitting private food aid and some non-official cross-border visits.

Negotiators from the two sides have met twice in recent months to discuss a possible resumption of six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.”

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China’s Foreign Minister warned of turmoil in the Middle East over Iran’s nuclear program, stressing the need for talks and for Iran to be flexible

November 10, 2011

“China warned on Wednesday against turmoil in the Middle East from action over Iran’s nuclear programme, but declined to comment on the possibility of new sanctions following a U.N. report that Iran appears to have worked on designing an atomic weapon.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China was “studying” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, and repeated a call to resolve the issue peacefully through talks.

“I wish to point out that China opposes the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and disapproves of any Middle Eastern country developing nuclear weapons. As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran bears the responsibilities of nuclear non-proliferation,” he told a daily news briefing.

“The Iranian side should also demonstrate flexibility and sincerity, and engage in serious cooperation with the agency,” Hong said, referring to the IAEA.”

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IMF Managing Director: Some East Asian countries can loosen their monetary policy; China’s fiscal spending is moving back to balance as expected

November 10, 2011

“International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said some Asian countries can ease monetary tightening slightly, referring to those that have tightened extensively to fight inflation.

For China, though, fiscal policy—tax and spending— is a more appropriate lever to pull if the economy needs support, she said on Wednesday, and there is still scope to further tighten monetary policy to restrain credit growth,

China’s “fiscal policy is appropriately moving back to balance,” Ms. Lagarde said. “But if the growth outlook deteriorates significantly, it could become the first line of defense, given ample fiscal space and capacity to deploy resources quickly.”

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China’s low output and low inflation allow for pro-growth economic measures

November 10, 2011

“Chinese industrial output grew at its weakest annual pace in a year in October and inflation fell sharply, raising expectations Beijing will do more to support economic growth by “fine tuning” policy.

A flurry of data on Wednesday showed that China’s factories are bearing the brunt of a modest economic slowdown even as consumer spending and investment in assets such as roads and other infrastructure remain resilient.

China’s annual inflation rate fell to 5.5 percent in October from September’s 6.1 percent — the biggest drop in the annual rate from one month to the next since February 2009 — and a further pullback from July’s three-year peak of 6.5 percent.

Premier Wen Jiabao said prices had fallen further since October, adding to the view that the State Council will start to favor more pro-growth policies, although inflation is still too high to expect a quick cut in interest rates from the People’s Bank of China (PBOC).”

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The IAEA Report undercuts Iran’s defense for its nuclear program

November 9, 2011

“In the past, Iranian diplomats have repeatedly challenged United Nations weapons inspectors to publish any evidence that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. Now the inspectors have done that, in a landmark report that cites numerous documents from a variety of sources suggesting that Iran has tried to build warheads.

The weight of evidence in the new report might even alter the calculus of Russia and China, who have for years been Iran’s chief defenders against European and American claims about Iran’s nuclear intentions, analysts said. But it is unlikely, at least for now, to alter their resistance to a military strike intended to disable Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities.

“China and Russia may be more reluctant now to vouch for Iran’s peaceful intentions,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But they will continue to argue that dialogue, not coercion, is the only way to resolve this issue.”

Iranian officials began reacting to the long-awaited report even before it came out, suggesting earlier this week that it was a politicized document intended to bolster the case for an Israeli military strike on Iran. Speculation that Israel would carry out such a strike has increased in recent weeks. But in a possible indication of deepening concern, Iranian officials have also stepped up a campaign of threats to retaliate massively against any military action, with one lawmaker warning Tuesday that such a strike would make a battlefield not of Iran but of “the entire Europe and the U.S.,” according to Iran’s Fars news agency.”

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U.S. Commerce Department opens investigation into whether Chinese companies sell solar panels in the U.S. at unfair discounts and receive illegal government subsidies

November 9, 2011

“The Commerce Department said on Wednesday it would investigate whether Chinese companies sell solar panels in the United States at unfair discounts and receive illegal government subsidies.

The trade dispute, one of several sensitive economic and trade issues between the United States and China, could lead to steep duties on imports of Chinese panels and help struggling domestic manufacturers.

The action is opposed by companies in the U.S. solar industry that count on importing cheap panels to boost solar power generation.”

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BBC News explanation on Iran’s workings toward the development of a nuclear weapon

November 9, 2011

The report highlights:

-Work on fast-acting detonators that have “possible application in a nuclear explosive device, and… limited civilian and conventional military applications”.
-Tests of the detonators consistent with simulating the explosion of a nuclear device
-”The acquisition of nuclear weapons development information and documentation from a clandestine nuclear supply network.”
-”Work on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components.”

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China’s State-run CCTV to begin broadcasting English-language TV services from Washington D.C.

November 8, 2011

“China Central Television, the country’s state-owned broadcaster, is opening a new hub in Washington, D.C., from which it will broadcast its English-language TV service, according to the Financial Times.

CCTV, which produces news shows widely viewed as government propaganda, expects to begin broadcasting from a D.C. studio by the middle of 2012 and produce up to six hours of original programing a day.

The channel is now available through cable and satellite providers in areas with large Chinese populations.”

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Israel Defense Minister Barak plays down speculation about Israeli strike against Iran

November 8, 2011

“Defense Minister Ehud Barak played down on Tuesday speculation that Israel intends to strike Iranian nuclear facilities, saying no decision had been made on embarking on a military operation.

“War is not a picnic. We want a picnic. We don’t want a war,” Barak told Israel Radio before the release this week of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran’s nuclear activity.

“(Israel) has not yet decided to embark on any operation,” he said, dismissing as “delusional” Israeli media speculation that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had chosen that course.

But he said Israel had to prepare for “uncomfortable situations” and ultimately bore responsibility for its own security.”

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Full International Atomic Energy Agency Report on the Iranian Nuclear Program

November 8, 2011

Full Text (.pdf)

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IAEA Report: Russia, Pakistan, and North Korea have all aided Iran’s nuclear weapons program

November 8, 2011

“The next IAEA report on the Iranian nuclear program will reveal that Tehran received assistance from several foreign countries, including Russia, Pakistan and North Korea, Western diplomats said Tuesday.
According to several media outlets, including the Washington Post, the UN’s nuclear watchdog has concluded that Iran’s nuclear program received assistance from Russian scientists on “how to build high-precision detonators that can be used to trigger nuclear chain reactions.”

Former Soviet scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko was allegedly contacted by Iran’s Physics Research Center in the mid-1990s to assist in its nuclear efforts. Documents obtained by the IAEA suggest he helped design a high-explosive device used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction.

The UK’s Daily Telegraph reported the some of the findings substantiate reports suggesting that Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is considered the “father” of Pakistan’s atom bomb, gave Iran the necessary blueprints for a neutron initiator – a key element in nuclear bombs.”

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6.8 Magnitude Earthquake measured offshore from Japan’s southernmost island

November 8, 2011

“A fairly strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 has hit off the shores of Japan’s southern Okinawa Island.

Officials said the quake Tuesday about 135 miles (220 kilometers) away from the island was not expected to cause a tsunami. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.”

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